End of Term Report Part 3 22/05/2011Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
The hardest episode to write so far, simply because the status of the first two subjects is a little up in the air…
10 – Danny Graham
There’s not a lot to say here, really. Twenty-seven goals speaks for itself, although perhaps less so Graham’s herculean contribution to our season in terms of tieing together our attacking play. Danny’s first season with Watford featured barren spells without goals, but he was well worth his place during those spells for his industry, his link-up play, and his intelligence… Tom Cleverley and Henri Lansbury both benefitted from the space he created. This year his role as the fulcrum of the attacking play was undiminished… but the barren spells didn’t come except, arguably, harshly, at the very end of the season. Having a quick sidekick in Marvin Sordell didn’t hurt Graham at all, but in any event Graham has developed into the perfect second tier striker; a bit of everything, and humility as well. You wouldn’t swap him for any other striker in the division, bar none.
Next Season: Whether the perfect second tier striker is up to being a Premier League striker is something we’re likely to find out. Graham’s public eagerness to test himself at the highest level is one pointer, another our very noisy rejection of QPR’s baffling opening bid for Graham. Baffling – and I’m digressing a little – because it’s not quite clear what they hoped to achieve by it. An early bid to get in ahead of any rivals still focused on the Premiership relegation bunfight would make sense, but not at that price. £4m, and the time to remodel, perhaps we’d have been tempted. So this bid achieves precisely nothing for QPR, but gives us the opportunity to shout from the rooftops in case anyone wasn’t paying attention already. “Look, that’s NO to £2.5m. Who’s next? Don’t be shy…”. Was Warnock doing Malky a favour? Or was he drawing someone else’s fire, someone also eyeing his real target? Or is he just an idiot? Anyway… is Danny equipped for the top flight? Difficult. My reservation would be that he’s good at everything, but not brilliant at anything. So… he’s quick, but not like Theo Walcott. He’s strong, but he’s no Alan Shearer. He’s clever, but he’s no Sheringham. He’s a good finisher, but not spectacular like an Henry or a Rooney. He’s guaranteed to work his socks off, of course. But then so would I, probably. Hertfordshire will still be rooting for him, at any rate. Even if he joins our alumni at Loftus Road.
11 – Will Buckley
I must confess disappointment that “Swash” has never caught on. Much less lazy than “Jeff”, or (jesus) “Bucko”. Sadly, this isn’t the greatest disappointment. I had outrageously high hopes for Buckley at the start of the season – raggedly single-minded outings at the end of the previous campaign had promised much more to come. And it did come, but only in fits and bursts, and only when the circumstances were favourable. Against a team that affords you great big spaces to run into, Will’s yer man. Against anyone with Lee Naylor at left back, Will is particularly likely to impress (hellooooo Cardiff). If you’re protecting a lead with ten minutes to go and your opponent’s pushing on, there’s nobody you’d rather have scampering off with the ball. Thing is, in most other circumstances Buckley has been found rather wanting, sometimes anonymous. Most damningly, he’s bucked the trend (get it?) evident in most of our young players over the same period in that he really doesn’t seem to have grown or improved much. Here, perhaps, pointers at the reasons behind his two period as persona non grata, confined to the bench even in games that were crying out for impetus. Has he been working hard enough to improve? Having had unreasonable expectations a year ago, perhaps I’m being unduly harsh now… Buckley is still a very young player, he can be devastating and he’s one of few players that have provoked a frisson of excitement as they emerge from the bench. And yet, and yet…
Next Season: Interesting that Brighton, whose recruitment policy is now overseen by John Stephenson, formerly of this parish, are the early suitors. I would like to see Buckley stay, and develop in a Watford shirt. I fancy that might not happen, though.
12- Lloyd Doyley
As he enters his testimonial season, it becomes clear that Lloyd Doyley is actually the unchanging constant at the centre of the universe. You know what you’re gonna get. You know about the good bits. You know about the slightly less good bits. You expect nothing more, nothing less. He’s the eye of the storm, the centre around which everything else is in orbit. Why else the awesome tremors that evening against QPR? The entire world was thrown out of kilter. He’s always been here. He’ll always be here. Amen.
Next Season: Some dogged defending. Several opponents marked closer than their cycling shorts. Unquestioning versatility, filling in wherever, capably. Being caught out in the air at the far post several times. Twenty seven passes shanked into the stand. Any number of bloody-minded overlaps pulling gaps in opposing defences. And, if playing left back, at least one cut inside per game with a shot sliced a foot wide. Don’t ever change, Lloydy.
13 – René Gilmartin
As has already been discussed in this series, it’s kinda hard for a reserve goalkeeper to make a positive impression. In the case of René Gilmartin, opportunities in the past season amounted to four cup games, and I must confess to having missed two of them. Not a great deal to base judgment on, then… and René could probably have done without that gaffe against Brighton in probably his highest profile game to date. He talks a good game by all accounts, and is evidently a popular guy, but doesn’t seem likely to displace Loach whilst the number one remains at the club.
Next Season: Unless Loach leaves, Gilmartin’s biggest competition seems likely to be with Jonathan Bond for the place on the bench.
14 – Ross Jenkins
After apparently slipping back in the pecking order last term, Jenkins re-emerged in the second half of this campaign as a hugely promising prospect. Still a prospect, yes… three years after first establishing himself as a regular in the first team, Jenkins is only twenty. A key factor in his downturn in fortunes in 2009/10 was the unanticipated re-engagement of John Eustace; it was quickly evident that the two didn’t complement each other in the centre and as such Jenkins, the junior partner, took a back seat. As injury and suspension limited Eustace’s involvement from January, however, Jenkins came stomping back into contention and laid down a marker. Not Eustace’s partner, no, but surely his heir. He gets… carried away occasionally, going for tackles that he perhaps shouldn’t, but our record with Jenkins in Eustace’s role was excellent, and a headed goal against Sheffield United that was marvellous in any number of ways suggested more to come.
Next Season: The trick will be keeping him happy. He’ll be a very good player – we need to make sure that he becomes so at Vicarage Road.